McAlester Aeronautics continues to rise

McAlester Aeronautics continues to rise

September 15 — Max Guyton says a new program at McAlester High School will help him reach his career goal.

The MHS student said he wanted to become an aircraft technician, so he enrolled in the district’s aviation program which is part of the new course that teaches students how to build and fly an aircraft.

“It’s really cool and I love the class,” Guyton said. “I want to become an aircraft technician and this is a way to start learning the things I needed to know when I was in high school.

Blake Wilt, another student at the Massachusetts College of Health, said he signed up for the class because he enjoys working in cars and is considering becoming a mechanic.

But he said the program introduced him to more potential career paths.

“I enjoy working in mechanics and this is a great way to give me more options,” he said.

MHS began offering aviation in 2018, added its first aviation division in fall 2019 through a partnership with the Association of Aircraft Owners and Pilots, and added a second aeronautics in fall 2020.

STEM teacher Amy Shaw said students learn the terminology and pieces of aircraft and drones through their first two aviation courses. She said the courses also introduce students to potential career paths in the growing aviation industry.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the median 2020 wage for commercial pilots and pilots was $130,440 per year — and it expects 11 percent growth in employment in this field from 2020-2030.

Boeing’s latest pilot and technician forecast anticipates 612,000 new pilots and 626,000 new maintenance technicians over the next 20 years.

Shaw said the program aims to give students options after graduation.

“I want to give them as many viable options as possible,” Shaw said.

The program has expanded to offer four flight simulators and 10 drones to more than 80 registered students.

MPS received a grant for drones and drone cages, which are 12 by 12 cages to allow students to maneuver the drones in a safe place.

Shaw teaches three levels of aeronautics, where students learn different aspects of flight leading up to the coronation course where they build and fly an aircraft.

MPS entered into a partnership last spring with Tango Flight, Inc. to become only one of three programs across the state to offer a program that teaches students how to build and fly an airplane.

Tango Flight, Inc. was founded. Founded in 2016, a non-profit educational organization that aims to inspire the next generation of engineers, pilots, flight mechanics, and technicians.

The organization’s curriculum provides hands-on training and students can apply classroom knowledge to build an FAA-certified aircraft.

Tango Flight’s curriculum combines aviation and avionics to teach the basics and mechanics of aircraft and avionics equipment.

The nonprofit has partnered with Wichita State University and the Airbus Foundation to create a curriculum focused on the mechanical, electrical, and engineering foundation.

Chase Tindle, director of McAlester Regional Airport, started last year as an assistant district coach in a partnership between the school and the city. Some students last year received grants to undergo flight training at the airport — and this year, the curriculum focuses on learning how to build an airplane.

“We do a lot of classroom work on different parts of the aircraft, different structures, and aircraft history,” Tindle said. “We also get into some principles of the mathematics and physics of flight.

“But the exciting part of the class is actually building an airplane,” Tindle said.

Students learn to build the RV-12iS – a two-seater contiguous metal plane that measures 26’9″ and 19’11” tall.

All students will be able to work on the plane and take a flight after passing the inspection and the project will take about two years to complete.

Tindle said the program provides students with the opportunity to learn from and network with mentors.

“We’re really excited and I think it’s a great programme,” Tindle said.

McAlester was already one of five schools in Oklahoma to participate in the four-year AOPA “You Can Fly” curriculum.

Oklahoma ranked third in implementing the AOPA curriculum with more than 30 schools participating, several years after the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission called for it.

McAlester is also among five schools named “Higher Flying Schools of Excellence” after the committee received an FAA Workforce Development Grant in late 2021.

Contact Adrian O’Hanlon III at


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